Opinion: Team tennis needs a bigger seat on the show courts
The popularity of tennis is directly influenced by other sports but the tennis authorities have yet to realise the wonderful opportunity that team tennis offers in helping us be strong in the face of stiff competition
Last week’s Davis Cup ties and this weekend’s Laver Cup have and will offer up moments of passion, excitement and sheer unbridled emotion that regular individual tennis tournaments simply can’t recreate and it’s these experiences which can strengthen the sport of tennis in a time when the battle for the attention and participation of fans and players is being fought on numerous fronts.
Traditionally tennis has enjoyed a constant flow of new players encouraged into the game after watching a player on television or being encouraged to compete at their local club by their parents and friends, but for many years a growth in challenger sports and the vast choice on TV and online has increased the difficulty in grabbing enough attention to maintain and grow tennis’s fan base.
Many will be drawn towards team sports as the tribal nature of supporting your local club or playing with a group of friends on the weekend seems a more tempting prospect than an individual sport such as tennis. Navigating your way through your teen years is tricky enough so why not do what your friends are doing and follow a team that allows you to be part of the conversation over favourite players and local rivals.
This is where tennis has an opportunity to create a structure for team tennis to thrive and to help garner some of that support and tribalism that others sports rely on. Ok we admit that the Laver Cup is unlikely to enjoy the fanatical support that a Premier league football match or NFL Superbowl receives but with male and female professional players form nearly every country on the globe, tennis has the all the moving parts it needs.
Just imagine an annual mixed team competition where the very best male and female players gave it their all for their country, year after year, in a truly competitive environment. At the present time, tennis is the one of the only professional sports where mixed matches are a realistic format. Football is unlikely to have a mixed World Cup any time soon.
Assuming the ATP and WTA can craft a merger of sorts then they will be perfectly placed to come up with such a competition that fits into the calendar, is enticing to all the top players offering them a chance to represent their home country in a truly competitive format and creates a spectator and TV-friendly event that can be attended and watched by a global tennis audience.
It will require numerous stakeholders to want to make it happen and to put aside their own selfish ambitions but the resulting event will boost tennis overall therefore benefiting all these stakeholders from the Grand Slams and other professional bodies.
More importantly it could grab the attention of a generation of potential new tennis fans and players as they search for a sport to support for the rest of their lives.
Read >> World’s best tennis magazine